Autism and girls
Why I wrote a survival guide for autistic teen girls
I was diagnosed as being autistic when I was twelve. As odd as it may sound, my diagnosis came as a welcome relief. After years of being rejected by my classmates for being odd, eccentric and weird and always feeling out of place, I finally had an explanation. That is not to say that finding out I was autistic didn’t come as a surprise. Like so many other people, my family and I had a stereotypical view of autism. When we thought of autism, we envisioned distressed young boys rocking back and forth. Boys who were obsessed with memorising train schedules or license plate numbers. It was only when I started delving deeper that I learned that girls can be autistic too and that we behave very differently, which is why so many of us continue to fly under the radar. It wasn’t long before I discovered that there were very few books and resources aimed at autistic girls. Most of the books and survival guides were written for autistic boys and didn’t address many of the issues I faced as a teen autistic girl. So, I decided to write my own book: The Spectrum Girl’s Survival Guide: How to Grow Up Awesome and Autistic
Writing my book
Initially, the thought of writing a book was daunting. For one thing, I am dyslexic. For another, would anyone be interested in reading a survival guide written by a teen autistic girl? But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that it was precisely because I am an autistic teen girl that I should write the book. I decided that if my book helped one autistic girl feel less isolated and alone that sharing my experience and insights will have been worth it.
In my book, I provide insights and advice on many of the topics that I was left to figure out on my own. Admittingly, many of the topics I cover (such as friendships, dating, navigating social media, fitting in, fashion, bullying and how to cope at school) are issues that all girls face. However, as a teen autistic girl, I know that these issues affect us very differently and that any guidance or advice must be tailored to us and viewed from an autistic lens. For example, at one school I went to I was bullied for not being feminine enough. I was called nasty names and ostracised, because I wore orthopaedic shoes, wore boy’s clothes, had messy hair and was horrified at the prospect of wearing makeup. It wasn’t until I was older that I realised that the main reason I did this was due to my autism-related sensory issues. Boy’s clothes were much more comfortable. Brushing my hair and having it cut was painful. The smell or texture of makeup made me queasy. When I got older and became more interested in fashion, I began to explore how to navigate my sensory issues so that I could wear a wider range of clothes and even wear makeup. It is these types of issues, issues that are unique to autistic teen girls, that I explore in my survival guide.
When I decided to write the survival guide, I set out to write the type of practical and informative guide that I wish had been available when I was growing up. I also set out to write an empowering and uplifting book that celebrates and encourages autistic teen girls to embrace who they are. When I was growing up I often felt isolated and alone, because I didn’t know any other autistic girls. I hope that my book reminds autistic girls that there are many of us out there and that we are all “awesome and autistic”.
The Spectrum Girl’s Survival Guide: How to Grow Up Awesome and Autistic is published on March 19, 2020.
About the author
Siena is a 17-year old neurodiversity advocate and found of Neurodiversity Celebration Week, a campaign that aims to encourage schools to recognise the talents and strengths of their neurodiverse students. Siena has won many awards for her neurodiversity advocacy, including BBC Teen Hero Award, the European Diversity Award and the British Citizen Youth Award.